The following post comes to us from Erin Krause ‘16. Erin has been employed in the Hess Archives since January 2015 as a student assistant, and has helped us with a variety of projects, including the processing of the papers of H. Willard Good. This collection was transferred to the new Archives from the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies and is just one of many powerful collections preserved and made available for research in the Hess Archives.
The college archive has uncovered a plethora of information hidden within its depths-hundreds of letters from the time of World War II. A local member of the Church of the Brethren, Willard Good, wrote and received these letters during his time as a passive objector from 1944 to 1946. These letters not only give us insight into the everyday life of this time but also detail the conditions of the civilian public service camps where Willard Good spent much of his time during the war.
Many of the letters were kept in excellent condition over the years by Willard himself. Most of the letters are from Willard’s friends and family. They express concerns for Willard and tell him of everything happening in the world while he was working at the Civilian Public Service Camp. Many of the letters contain newspaper clippings about the war and the Church of the Brethren, giving the readers of these letters an understanding of what exactly was occurring in the 1940s. Not only do the letters contain newspaper clippings, but a few also enclose documents from the time such as food stamps, train tickets, life insurance papers, and tax forms. The Elizabethtown College Archives now possess many forms and paperwork from World War II.
The true gold mine, however, is the correspondence between Willard Good and his wife, Pauline McKenzie. The letters that Willard sent Pauline are filled with intricate details of his time traveling and his time working at civilian public service camps. Here we are able to read a firsthand account of the food they ate, the religions the workers practiced, the struggles that the workers experienced, and the conditions of the camps. Readers of the letters are also able to learn about the love story between Willard Good and his wife, Pauline McKenzie, which is intermixed among all the facts. The letters start out when the two were courting and continues through their marriage. The letters tell us of her concern for him, their disagreements over everyday matters such as money and taxes, and ultimately their love.
These letters offer us an incredible insight into what life was like during World War II. With Elizabethtown College having such strong connections to the Church of the Brethren, it is important to understand the Church’s history. Willard Good was a dedicated member of the Church of the Brethren, and reading about his struggles and life during World War II is important for us to understand another side of history. This collection of letters is a wonderful addition to the Hess Archives, and one that will continue to help researchers and students learn throughout the years to come.